Whites return to South Africa

When South African native Nicky Prins lived in London, there was one television advertisement that always touched her heart.

As part of an effort to encourage tourism, the South African Government ran a commercial showing the country's dramatic landscape, coupled with emotive music and excerpts from President Thabo Mbeki's famous "I am an African" speech.

"Sometimes I would cry when I watched it. It sort of brought on the emotions to a head, and you would think, 'I really want to go home,' " said the Prins, 34, an economist who left South Africa eight years ago for better career opportunities.

A few months after she first saw the ad, she packed up her bags and went home.

Brain drain has plagued South Africa since the unravelling of apartheid in the early 1990s. Affluent, accomplished South Africans of all races, but whites in particular, still flood out of the country in search of adventure, better opportunities and an escape from crime.

But now some - like Prins - are returning.

Moving companies, real-estate agents and nonprofit groups say more and more white South Africans in their late 20s and beyond are returning to South Africa. Hungry for their own culture, eager to raise children near their own families, and encouraged by their country's economic potential, these adults are leaving their successful careers abroad for an uncertain future at home.

"We've been happy and enjoying ourselves ever since the day we've been back," said Prins, who moved to Johannesburg last October. "I felt like my quality of life improved dramatically."

Prins and her boyfriend Mark Kirkness, a civil engineer, may not have made the decision to come home if weren't for the Homecoming Revolution, one of several South African organisations dedicated to persuading expatriates to come back. Kirkness received a job offer after attending a career fair put on by the group, which also provides candid information about the South African economy, security conditions and crime, and hosts networking dinners and other events for those who have returned.

"We've certainly seen South Africans returning," said Homecoming Revolution manager Martine Schaffer, whose website draws 17,000 new visitors each month. "At the beginning of this year, I think we have more people returning than leaving."

The South African Department of Home Affairs says it does not track South Africans who move abroad and then return. Anecdotal evidence, however, indicates more South Africans have been returning to the country since the late 1990s.

Article by: www.smh.com.au